Michigan Is Underutilizing Its Most Dangerous Offensive Weapon

Of all the players currently on Michigan’s roster, perhaps nobody fits the mold of “speed in space” better than this particular Wolverine.
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As the Wolverines continue to search for playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, Giles Jackson has proven time and time again that he can be that guy.

Throughout his young career, the sophomore out of Antioch, California, has provided some of the most electric plays for Michigan over the last two seasons. As a freshman, Jackson became just the second player in Michigan Football history to record a receiving, rushing, and kick return touchdown all in the same season. On the biggest stage of all, Jackson helped Michigan draw first blood against the Ohio State Buckeyes on a 22-yard touchdown run. The following game against Alabama in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, Jackson led the Wolverines with 158 all-purpose yards.

Although Jackson’s sophomore year was cut short due to injury (and COVID issues within the team), he still made the most of his limited opportunities. Against the in-state rival Spartans, Jackson led the Wolverines with 58 yards on seven receptions. On the road against Rutgers, Jackson helped spark a Wolverine comeback win with a 95 yard kick return for a touchdown. Even throughout the struggles of the 2020 season, Jackson provided much needed sparks when the Wolverines seemed to need it most.

For all of the electricity that Jackson can provide, his involvement on the offensive side of the ball has been fairly limited given all that he is capable of. The good news is that there’s another team within the Big Ten that provides the perfect blueprint on how best to utilize the skill set of Giles Jackson. That team is Purdue, and the player is Rondale Moore.

Both Jackson and Moore possess a similar build with a similar skillset. At roughly 5-9, 190 pounds each, both guys are quick and shifty athletes that create a nightmare scenario for defenders in the open field. With an elite level of quickness and top-end speed, both guys are the very definition of a home-run threat. With so many similarities between Jackson and Moore, there’s one significant difference that plays a major factor in the discrepancy in production between the two - utilization.

Purdue seems to understand exactly what it is they have in Moore and they utilize him accordingly. As a freshman in 2018, Moore hauled in 114 receptions - nearly triple the amount of receptions as the next highest reception leader on the team (46). His 1,258 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns were good enough to make him Purdue's leading receiver that year by far. Moore’s production also earned him the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the most versatile player in all of college football. By the time his 2018 season had come to a close, Moore had set Purdue records in all-purpose yards in a season (2,215), all-purpose yards in a game (313), and tied the record for 100-yard receiving games (seven).

Moore’s sophomore campaign wasn’t quite as notable due to an injury that sidelined him for the year just four games into the season. Ironically, Moore’s four game production during the shortened 2019 season was still enough to eclipse what Jackson was able to achieve during that same year as a freshman. By the time Moore’s season had come to an early end, he had hauled in 29 receptions for 387 yards. Jackson, on the other hand, finished a full 2019 campaign with just nine receptions for 142 yards.

During the 2020 season, Moore once again outpaced Jackson in fewer games. Due to an injury that would sideline him for the first four games of the season, Moore would finish the 2020 campaign with 35 receptions for 270 yards in just three games. Jackson would make it through five games before an injury would ultimately put an end to his 2020 season, yet he finished the year with just 15 receptions for 167 yards.

The bottom line is this: Michigan has an absolute gem in Giles Jackson. If the Michigan offense is finally going to turn the corner in 2021 and go all-in on the “speed in space” concept, Jackson must play a critical role in that effort and his involvement on the offensive side of the ball must increase significantly.